Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It is Ada Lovelace Day! I almost let this significant celebratory day pass by me without a mention. What is Ada Lovelace Day, you ask?

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was born on 10th December 1815, the only child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Born Augusta Ada Byron, but now known simply as Ada Lovelace, she wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented.

Ada had been taught mathematics from a very young age by her mother and met Babbage in 1833. Ten years later she translated Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, appending notes that included a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the machine – the first computer programme. The calculations were never carried out, as the machine was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

Understanding that computers could do a lot more than just crunch numbers, Ada suggested that the Analytical Engine “might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.” She never had the chance to fully explore the possibilities of either Babbage’s inventions or her own understanding of computing. She died, aged only 36, on 27th November 1852, of cancer and bloodletting by her physicians.

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. The first Ada Lovelace Day was held on 24th march 2009 and was a huge success. It attracted nearly 2000 signatories to the pledge and 2000 more people who signed up on Facebook. Over 1200 people added their post URL to the Ada Lovelace Day 2009 mash-up. The day itself was covered by BBC News Channel,, Radio 5 Live, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Metro, Computer Weekly, and VNUnet, as well as hundreds of blogs worldwide.

OK, so maybe it isn't an earth shattering event, but for the sake of my friends who are working in fields that I have never understood or been inclined to understand, I pay homage to it. I honor the women in my circle who have contributed to the fields of science and technology.

My Ada Lovelace Hat goes off to two of my college roommates, both of whom went on to receive doctorates in developmental biology and chemistry, respectively. Way to go - Katie and Kelly!  Glad you have decided to still remain friends with your liberal arts lovin', Bachelor's of Arts only roomie!

No comments: